Friday, December 6, 2013

NaNo 2013

So it didn't go so well this year, despite challenging friends and lover and hoping that their participation would kick me into gear... it didn't, in case you couldn't tell. Thanks anyway, Magaly, Rhissanna, Tabbi, and my Dragon dearest...

My NaNo this year was The Darkness Eaters: "In order to be a beacon of the Light, sometimes one must consume the Dark." A member of an ancient order of demonslayers discovers a secret that might just shatter them all.

I got to a little over 2000 words, which isn't a bad start, and like always I have yet another story that (I think) is brilliant and I may one day finish. It was inspired by Magaly Guerrerro's All Hallow's Grim (which you may remember I wrote In Death's Shadow for), and some of Luis Royo's paintings.

If you're not familiar with Luis Royo, I would suggest to carefully tiptoe over to Google and search Images. I say carefully, because his paintings (while amazing, from a technical standpoint - I could go on all day about how he uses detail and light and fabric wrinkles and... well, you get the idea) tend to challenge our idea of Good and Evil and spin it around until you're not sure which way is up. He also dips heavily into nudity, sexuality, and puts both into taboo settings. Not all of his paintings are like that, but many. So tread lightly if you go looking. However, his women are strong, beautiful, dangerous, powerful, and mysterious. They are often reminiscent of ancient Minoan goddesses, or Ishtar and Inanna, or the Morrighan, and the Warrior-queen of Connacht from Celtic mythos. When they are not wielding swords and slaying monsters, they are seducing these selfsame monsters (and sometimes both). He shows them in the midst of sacrifice, and at rest. He shows them at the peaks of passion. And sometimes, just sometimes, he depicts these wicked and powerful women in the arms of a sweet and sensuous human lover, who can make her feel whole again and give her absolution. I find their delicate forms, challenging stares and bold poses inspiring.

Every one of his pieces has a story behind it, that makes you wonder what he had in mind when he put brush to canvas. Some of the ones that have inspired me for this year's NaNo, The Darkness Eaters:



I could also go into music that inspired me, among a ton of other things, but I will wrap it up here and go do what I was trying to do when this distracted me: write! Thanks again to Magaly, Rhissanna, Tabbi, and my Dragon for aiding and abetting this year's NaNo, even if it didn't go anywhere (like usual). I got another start out of it. Here's to finishing, eventually.

Friday, October 18, 2013

All Hallow's Grim: In Death's Shadow, Finale.

Luis Royo

I had never really practiced magick before. I had seen the others playing at it during some of the Gatherings, but never joined in. It had been enough to spectate, and vampire magick was certainly worth ogling. Most of their circles started with blood and ended in sex, and were as much fun for those watching as they were for the ones participating. I never really knew if their workings actually did anything, but they were certainly entertaining to watch. So I knew little of magick in any form. There was a vague understanding somewhere in my mind that it did exist, and it could be used, manipulated, and shaped to good effect - my existence, and that of my patriarch, and the others, was proof of that - but it had never touched my life otherwise and I was less than an infant in its ways.
But I now had in my hand a scrap of knowledge that could change everything. Most of the instructions I did not understand... what in Hell was a "shard of profayne ice" and where in the world was I to find half of these other ingredients...? "Draw a circle," I understood from the rituals the others liked to play at, or at least I thought I did... offering a sacrifice of a soul was also understandable. It was Death, after all. I wondered idly if my own soul would count, and if it would actually kill me in the process. But the rest, about moons and planetary alignments and stars was beyond me. I tried to ignore phrases like "necromantyk dysjunction" and "summonyng locus" and the like. Biology and botany I understood, but it bothered me on a deep and fundamental level that even spells seemed to have technical terminology to make a computer programmer proud. My head was spinning enough with the idea that this might be possible; I didn't need magick-nerd-speak rattling around in my skull to make it worse.
I needed a teacher. I needed to learn secrets and gain enough knowledge to know if this scrap I held was more than just some ancient scholar's fantasy. And I had a sinking feeling that the others' Gatherings were the best place to start looking for such a teacher.
So for the first time since my turning, I returned to my patriarch of my own free will. He showed no surprise; instead, he expressed a smug satisfaction that I was finally coming to my senses. I let him think what he would, and kept my thoughts to myself. I had left the spell hidden, though not where I found it; I was not the only one in the world that still hunted for ancient knowledge. Instead, I left it where few would think to find such a thing... in a once-sealed crypt, in the graveyard of a Methodist church near my patriarch's home, and I giggled to myself thinking of how they would react if they ever found it. I was an irreverent soul.
My patriarch did not miss my sudden interest in the ritual circles. But he merely raised an eyebrow indulgently, as though he was amused that I had finally found something to interest me beyond him. The others... those who indulged in these forms of magick, anyway... were both welcoming and suspicious. You see, my kind were an irredeemably political lot; there were power plays and plots and schemes and plans within plans. For some, the rituals were mere instruments to further these politics. For others, it was an idle pastime, something to occupy the centuries. And for those whose studies were serious, the rituals were both an end and a means to power. What sort of power, I was never clear on; as I said, I never saw whether they actually accomplished anything besides entertaining the rest of us and making a mess of bodily fluids, candle wax, and shredded clothing. The ones who were serious about their craft were the most rare, but every ritual had at least one like that. It took time to find them, and even more time to discover whose knowledge was true, and who were simply playing with things they understood no more than I. Eventually, I found one who could mentor me in what she called the Arte. And she made me spell it like that too, every time. I gritted my teeth and kept them shut on the smart-ass commentary that begged to spill forth from my lips, and tried to learn enough to understand the content of my secret spell. She had to send me away, after a time, to the one who taught her, and so on until finally one of the elders took me under his wing. My patriarch was less than thrilled with that, but he continued to indulge me.
My new teacher taught me all the darkest secrets of the Arte; blood, pain, and sex... but I was convinced the last was merely to sate his own lecherous appetites. I had not yet met a single one of my kind who was not obsessed with fleshly pleasures. The Nosferatu were not attractive; they were mostly withered versions of us younger ones. My patriarch, for instance, was muscular and well-formed, but his face belonged in a nursing home. Despite this failing, his touch on me could make my blood sing...
This mage, however, was different. He had not kept a young man's form, but neither did he fit with the rest of the ranks. He made his demands of me and I yielded, and I am not unwilling to admit that I enjoyed the act. Centuries upon centuries of existence did confer a certain expertise, as well as stamina. He demanded and I gave; he taught and I soaked up his knowledge like a sponge. He asked me why I wanted to learn and I told him the truth, gasping as his hands inflicted pain and pleasure all at once on my flesh: power to take my revenge. It amused and delighted him, I think. He sent me to participate and eventually lead the circles at every Gathering; the pretender mages were resentful, but my teacher told me it was good practice, and none but himself could do better. I suspected he wanted to make me prideful, to see if I would slip up, but I merely did as he commanded. The circles at the gathering were mild compared to many of the rituals I had enacted with my teacher, but they were also just as tantalizing from within the circle as they had been from without. Flesh, and blood, and the inflicting of pain upon some poor mortal with the misfortune to catch the eye of one of us that night.
Now, I tasted the power. Now, I understood why they persisted. And, I began to see results from their rituals.
 My teacher named me Witch of the Kindred and claimed he could teach me no more, and sent me away to cause whatever chaos he expected. I had finally learned enough to retrieve my hidden treasure and put it to use.
I read the spell again and shook my head at my earlier ignorance; at its core, this ritual for summoning Death was simple in theory. Practice, however, was going to be complicated. My teacher had had some favorite subjects; historical arcane studies was one. Ways to inflict pain without causing lasting damage was another, but I did not think I'd need that particular collection of knowledge for this endeavor. It was painstaking to gather the materials; in some cases, I had to go back to my teacher and ask him what one might substitute when a spell called for something that no longer existed in the world. In some cases, he pointed me to sources that still traded in rare, esoteric goods, but the rest... he gave me some suggestions and wished me luck in the experimenting.
I did not look forward to guessing, and hoping that some of these substitutions would be just as effective, but I began my work with determination. Sometimes nothing happened; others caused explosions that knocked me off my feet, or a summons of some strange creature that I had to fight off. One attempt apparently did something to Time in a localized area; I went into my ritual space and came out only a few hours later, but apparently several days had passed without my knowing. When I came out, I was ravenous and drained three humans dry before I was sated. My patriarch took advantage of my bloodlust, of course, and we did not leave his bed for an entire day... but at the end I thanked him, though I did not explain why. His seductions only increased my desire to find a solution to the puzzle before me.
I was thankful that the spell did not require more than myself to enact; a ritual requiring a circle of two or more could have had negative consequences once my intent became clear. It did require sacrifice, but humans were easy to come by. I told my victims that their lives were being given to a good cause, that if theirs was the soul that succeeded, then it would give me the power to take vengeance on my own kind, for their sake and mine. Most of them did not believe me, but it did not deter me.
And then there was one young girl who was willing to place her trust in me and my claims. Her sacrifice came willingly, and luck was with me. That night... that night, I cast the spell.
Death came on a cloud of shadow, intertwined with the light of the girl's soul. I saw a clawed hand reach out of the billowing darkness to gently grasp the shimmering form and draw it close, where it faded. The darkness coalesced into a classically stereotypical shape, sans scythe; Death stood before me, cloaked in black and held securely within my circle. I hoped. No - I knew. My will made it so; my will had summoned Death to speak with me, and my will kept him bound until I was ready to release Him.
I stood silently, waiting. Now that the moment was upon me, I was not sure what to say, and I felt like a fool for not preparing a script ahead of time. Death was bound before me and I stood there, mind blank like a teenage girl. Damn it! He shifted and I tensed, but he simply reached up and pushed back his hood with his clawed hands. I stared. Death had a face.
His face was somewhere between an Abercrombie model and a mummy, but it was flesh nonetheless. He had been a handsome man, but aeons had withered and preserved him. He had hair, if somewhat limp and thin, and a slightly sunken nose... and eyes. His eyes pierced me to the marrow. They were dark and gleaming; his gaze was sharper than the fangs that had pierced my skin and taken my life. I never noticed when my will faltered and the light from my circle went out, but Death never moved. He simply studied me, for many long, torturous moments, until he finally stepped forward, out of my circle, and touched my face with one hand. I flinched; I might have yelped, but I was rooted to the spot. I could not have fled. I stammered something; an apology, an explanation, I was not sure what... but he ignored the words until I fell silent again.
"You have a soul," he said softly, and I flinched again. The voice that issued forth from his somewhat dessicated lips was rich and resonant, but it also had a rasping overtone that reminded me of when someone with a deep voice gets a touch of bronchitis. "You are one of the stolen dead, but you have somehow kept your soul." It was not a question, and I did not know how to respond, so I simply nodded. "The rest of your kind... their souls go where I cannot claim them. I am cheated of their deaths! But you... I can use you." he paused and considered me, his angry, paralyzing stare softening for a moment into speculation.
I swallowed my shock, told myself that it was not fear in the pit of my belly, and raised my chin slightly. I opened my mouth but he spoke again before the words would come. "You have a heart black with hate, and blood that itches for vengeance." He brushed the coils of black hair away from my face, touched the white streak at my temple, and smiled. My mouth went dry at that smile. "You wonder why you are different. You wonder, even as you grasp for some power that will give you the means to strike back at your tormentors."
I nodded. "My patriarch..." my voice sounded rusty, and I cleared my throat and tried again. "He killed my parents and turned me on a whim. He has awakened things in me that I never thought could exist in a human..."
Death cut me off with sharp words. "Human hearts contain all that is. Good and evil are mutable, and ultimately irrelevant. Do you want this power, or shall I destroy you and put you out of your misery?"
I shut my teeth with a snap and looked at him. "I want it."
He reached into his cloak and drew out an object that shone dimly in the candlelight. I looked at the thing in his hand without really seeing it, so enthralled by his presence at that point that I don't think I would have noticed if my patriarch had flown through the window on a pegasus to offer me flowers and candy.
Death stepped around me to look over my shoulder and whisper in my ear. "This will slay any of your kind, if it penetrates their flesh, and it will collect their soul for me, but you must leave it in their body for a full night and day afterward. From one moonrise to the next. Do you understand?" He did not wait for my nod. "Each strike will cause you pain as well; it will take your blood to give it power when it kills. My shadow will be upon your shoulders, and you will find no friends, no succor, no safe place. It will be long, arduous work, and you will risk exposure with every kill. It will take you centuries and you will die in my service; you will never be free in life if you agree to this bargain. But you will have your vengeance, and I will see that your soul joins your parents, if you serve well."
The claws of one hand had drawn blood from my waist in his intensity but I barely noticed. I ran my fingers through my hair, thinking furiously. Oh, how I wanted it. What did it matter, the things I would suffer in my mission? Rather than speak, I laid my hand over the artifact in his palm; I felt something cold pierce my skin and a sudden weakness came over me...
And then I was alone, on my knees, with the artifact in my bleeding hand. I clutched it to my chest and felt a curious sense of peace in place of what usually lurked within. The hate, the rage, the grief had all faded, to leave behind... purpose, and conviction. I looked at Death's gift and smiled; it was a cross, with strange skeletal figures wrapped around it. I could just fit my hand between the figures to grasp the haft of the cross. When I did so, a blade slid from the end of it, and my smile turned dangerous. What I had sought for so long was here in my hand; it had tasted my blood and I could feel it wanting more. I would give it all the blood and death it could ask for.

 Luis Royo

Epilogue
After I had hunted my own kind for years, and had more close calls than I wanted to think about, I was finally ready to admit I was tired. But I was not ready to give up, not yet. Hordes of the "stolen dead" still roamed the earth, and I was one of few who could give my master the souls that had been denied him. I shared the spell with some few others of my kind, when I found those like me, whose hearts burned with hate and regret for what they had become. Death made the same bargain with them, and I sent them on their way. We came together a few times a year, for the comfort of communing with one's own, but aside from that we never saw each other. He had lied to me, in the beginning; I found friends among them, and solace after a fashion. Some of us died, and I recruited more; we mourned and sang songs to their memory and continued on...
Until I decided it was time. We were immortal, but that did not mean we should wait forever. None of the elders, the Nosferatu, had fallen to Death's blades. So, one of those times we came together, I offered up a proposal. Our numbers were greater than they ever had been; there would never be a better time.  My patriarch kept himself in the center of the greatest population of our kind... which was not to say much, for there was no good reason for large numbers of them to gather in one place... but they were few enough. My friends considered it, and most of them agreed. The ones who did not agree went along with us anyway. It was not a battle; it was not war. It was a covert action. I went home, to him, and resumed my life. My friends hid in the city nearby. We hunted, and our prey died, until there were few of them left and those were jumpy as a cat in heat on the full moon. My patriarch was left for last; two groups who enacted the ritual circles were canny enough to have evaded us until we closed on them. They were less than twenty; we numbered twice that. My patriarch was the first of the Nosferatu we killed, and I kissed him as I plunged the blade into his belly, and drank in the sight of the dark gleam fading from his eyes. I shivered for the last time by his doing, and slept that night beside his corpse. I did not worry about my friends; they were capable. For the first time in ages, a city was empty of the life-eaters, the vampires. 
I learned, finally, during those years, what the separation between light and dark really was. As Death had said, good and evil were irrelevant. I had seen evil beings commit acts of great benevolence and even kindness. I had seen those that claimed to goodness commit cruelties beyond imagining. Light and dark were not two sides of the same coin. They were not black and white, forever separated by some ineffable magic line that one could cross at will. They flowed like water and blended like paint, one into the other and without end. You can say there's black and white, that some things will always be evil and some always good... but try living a few centuries and experiencing all the best and worst that sentient beings can dish out, and then tell me that it's so easy to judge. 
Light and dark fade into one another like day into night and back again, and there is no boundary, no definable separation between the two. Good and evil are just words that we use to try to understand something that cannot and will never be defined. It must be lived; it must be experienced with a whole heart, embraced with one's entire being, and only then can you claim any glimmer, any measure of understanding. Without the darkness, there can be no light; without the light, we would never know the darkness. We cannot have one without the other.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

All Hallow's Grim: In Death's Shadow, part 2

Luis Royo

That was a long time ago. The groves, the house... the sweet stench of blood and fear, just before he showed me what darkness means... but I still remember it like it was only hours ago instead of years. My memory of some things had faded over time, but that night remains sharp and vivid. He murdered me, and brought me back to life, and my body... well. There is a little flutter inside every human soul that wonders what it's like on the hidden face of the moon, that secretly wants to step over that line and experience it, just once. I can tell you, the touch of that shadow is everything you think it's going to be. It is tantalizing, and thrilling, and the mere breath of it is ecstasy. You can imagine, then, what the taste of it on your tongue will be like, what the caress of it on your skin will do to your insides... That devil killed me, and changed me, and then I surrendered to him with my mother's sightless gaze watching every movement, her cold ears hearing every breath and cry. I abased myself, I shamed myself and desecrated the house I grew up in, the house where my parents lay dead not ten feet from me, and found myself begging for more. I could not help myself, and I could not stop him. I did not want to. Yes, the darkness will terrify you, excite you, make you quiver and moan and cry out, and bring you to peaks you had never thought possible, over and over again, and you will ask for it every time... but you will have to decide if it is worth the price I paid.
The world has changed since then, into something where thriving is only for the lucky, and survival is the only way for the rest... except for some of us, who are something... more.
And then there's me. 
Something went wrong, that night. He told me that he'd done that a thousand times in his lifetime, and never had a single failure. He didn't quite count me a failure, but I was certainly... imperfect... as the others saw things. I came away from that night gifted with much of his strength, much of his power, and certainly all of his weaknesses. However, there was one fatal flaw in the execution of his whims; I kept my humanity in the process. Others, when coming down from the first full flush of new life and strange sensation, embrace it wholeheartedly. They have lost something vital inside that defines morality for humankind. He would call it a soul, and smirk, and I would never know if he was joking or not. Others... all the others... lost their soul when they died; I somehow kept mine.
There was no explaining it, and no fixing it; it frustrated him to no end and turned me against him, and all others of our kind. I came to hate what he'd made me into, what he was, and the others. But there are rules to this existence; it is rare for one of us to attack another, rarer still for a murder to take place. Even in this changed and twisted world, we keep the pretty fiction alive that we are nothing out of the ordinary, on pain of excommunication and threat of death. It was not so terrible an existence; the others were intriguing in their own way. The life itself was... thrilling. I had known a new definition of ecstasy since that first night, when he took me for his own, but I still hated it. I loathed it, loathed myself and him and all the rest. But I shrugged, and embraced the life as best I could.
"You will grow into it," he told me a hundred times, and still I hated him with a hot, burning, enraged passion that I prayed to whatever gods still paid attention to this world that I would one day have occasion to express. He would whisper it into my ear as our bare flesh struggled for conquest against one another, and my eyes would turn to stone. No matter what my body felt, no matter how good he was - and he was, very - he told me that my eyes never changed.
Who was he? What was he? Questions easily answered but not so easily understood. He was my murderer and my resurrection. He was my lover. He was a friend, after a fashion. He was a trickster. He was a demon, a devil, a wicked, twisted mirror-image of humanity and all that was depraved and horrible lurking within the hearts of us all. Vrykolakas, strigoi, Nosferatu. Vampire. Yes, damn the last flicker of the soul's fire in me, he was a vampire. Of all the fantasies in the world, why did that particular one have to choose my family's farm? Whim, he said. The word has since become a curse on my tongue, for that creature lives by whims that leave the worst you can imagine in their wake. My story was less terrifying than many I had heard, many I had helped write. None of us are immune to the call of our hunger, whether we retained our souls or not. My illustrious patriarch was not the only one of the Nosferatu... the elders... to turn humans, but he was the only one whose successes were so vast, whose record was so perfect. Until me, of course. But he said that I only increased his fame, his reputation, that somehow he had made a child who had all his nature and something more besides. I told him, with a sneer on my lips, that if it was a success to create a flawed child who hated not only him but herself as well, then he must be the most powerful of all the elders. It was an old, familiar retort, to which he merely told me to learn to keep my tongue in check before one of the other elders forced silence upon me. I smiled through my teeth and let him think I was abashed.
I nursed my hatred as we flitted through the world, leaving broken, tormented lives behind us. I cultivated loathing as others cultivate their gardens when he made new children and taught them, and sent them off into the world to follow in his footsteps. And when I could finally take it no more, I left him behind, sneaked away to try and escape him, but somehow he always tracked me down again. He was obsessed with me, his flawed, rebellious wild child. When we weren't fucking or feeding or turning young, pretty humans, I was in libraries, or closeted with mystics, trying to learn why I was different. I wanted to know why I still had my soul, why I hated my nature when all the others embraced it. It was a fruitless search. I found old references to ceremonial magick, to the names of angels and demons, to energy work and fluffy, feel-good Goddess religions, but nothing that touched on the horrors of my daily life, nothing to explain why a vampire would need a soul. And then one day, when I had run away yet again, I found an ancient, forgotten scrap of knowledge in an equally ancient, forgotten tomb, that made my blackened heart quiver with an emotion I had not known in many years; hope.
It was a spell to summon Death himself.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

All Hallow's Grim: In Death's Shadow

 Luis Royo

“Stars, hide your fires; Let not light see my black and deep desires.”
― William Shakespeare, Macbeth 

Some stories all start the same way; the wind howls through the darkness and across the treetops, bringing portents of change, or it might be a dark and stormy night heralding the ill omens... or just a normal day, like any other. This story starts somewhere in the middle. It was a rainy day, cold and windy, on a maple farm near a little town tucked away in the Blue Ridge. It was early in the year, and my father was muttering about too much rain and the sap rising too thin... you see, too much rain, and it takes more sap than usual to make syrup, making that year more expensive for farmer and customer alike. So far, the rain had not quite hit that mark, but it was coming close. With Dad preoccupied by the rain, and Mom preoccupied with Dad, it left me to my own devices. I had made sure, as soon as I was a teenager, that Dad knew I wanted nothing to do with the family business. I wanted to live my own life, and Monterey was not the place to do it. He had finally come around... we mountain folk are known for our stubbornness, the women in particular... and though he wasn't happy about it, he accepted it.
So rather than listen to Mom fuss and fidget while Dad brooded, I wandered through the maple groves, my raincoat's drawn tight around my face, trying to avoid my parents' complaining.  There had been something strange among the trees all winter, something... dark. Darker than a moonless winter night, something shadowed moved through the grove every time I took my walks, and the creeping feeling of eyes upon me crawled along the skin of my neck like a spider. And I, being the person I was, preferred to walk and try to spot the source of the strangeness, rather than stay inside like any sane human being would have. I walked in the groves every day, trying to understand it, trying to find whatever was causing this prickling sensation, but I never caught more than the shadow of a shadow.
I stayed out all afternoon, avoiding the house like the plague. I had absolutely no wish to partake of my parents' troubles; I was set to go off to college in the fall and the last thing I wanted was to leave home weighed down with the worries a farm, any sort of farm, tended to bring. I was twenty and would be turning twenty-one soon after starting classes; I had waited the two extra years on purpose, to decide what I wanted to do while taking various classes and courses at the community college across the mountain. I had found a fascination with biology - botany in particular - and would be studying that in more depth at UVA. I was excited; I could hardly wait, though Dad had a hard time understanding. He was mountain folk, though... he'd never left Monterey. Mom had moved here to marry him, after meeting during the spring Maple Festival, so she understood a little better. But even she was certain I would move back and take over one day, so she and Dad could retire and travel.
I could not imagine my father ever traveling... or retiring, for that matter. Dad would keel over in the grove one day while changing the taps on the trees, like a good maple farmer should.
I was so lost in these thoughts that I did not realize the sun had gone down until I could no longer see the house down the hill; I could barely see two rows ahead of me in the grove. Grumbling, I turned to look around me; the sense of eyes had gone and so had the strangeness. When had it disappeared? I shrugged... shrugged!... and headed down the hill. It was probably close to dinnertime; Mom would be puttering in the kitchen, trying to postpone putting dinner on the table until I came inside. Dad would be following her around the kitchen, trying to steal bites of this or that while she swatted at him with a serving spoon.
I opened the door to the mudroom, scraping the cold mud off my boots before actually stepping inside and taking the boots off. I was still wrapped in my thoughts deeply enough that at first it made no impression upon me that the house was silent, or the air smelled... strange. There was something wrong inside the house. I stopped and listened, but there was no noise... no TV, no fireplace crackling, no dishes clinking... I took a deep breath, and a sharp, metallic scent overlaid the warm, savory smells of dinner. It was a scent I knew. The boys I'd grown up with were avid hunters; I had often been forced to 'ooh' and 'ahh' over the spoils of their hunts, so I knew the smell of blood. Something cold gripped my belly and chest so hard it hurt, and my fists tightened. I was mountain folk by blood, though, so I reached into the closet beside me and drew out the loaded shotgun kept in a rack beside the closet door. I checked the chamber; it was loaded, but I grabbed the box of shells from the closet shelf and shoved it in my coat pocket. Better overkill than dead.
I moved through the house in sock feet, barely breathing, stepping with utmost care. The feeling of eyes had returned as soon as I left the mudroom, and the strange shadow-within-shadows at the corner of my vision seemed to taunt me. I reached the kitchen without incident, shotgun held ready at my shoulder, but nothing met my eyes but the sight of tragedy; two bodies on the floor in pools of their own blood.
My stunned mind noted that the pools seemed smaller than they should be. The shotgun slowly lowered from its place on my shoulder. I shuddered; the stench of blood and worse was strong in here, overlaying the smells of the dinner I had been looking forward to... my body convulsed and I realized I was retching. Nothing came up, but I couldn't stop. My mother's sightless eyes gazed at the wall and I couldn't stop looking, I couldn't turn away. "Dad. Mom..."if I had been here, if I hadn't stayed out all day, would it have made a difference...? Something inside me, something cruel, said no. Their fate would have been mine. Perhaps that would have been kinder.
"When will you humans learn that Fate is never kind?" A rolling, melodious voice murmured from somewhere behind me, and I whirled, shotgun back in its place, finger on the trigger. Nothing was there, and I tried to still my shaking arm enough to steady my aim.
It was a fruitless endeavor. The shadows around me grew and changed, and something struck me from behind. The shotgun slid from nerveless fingers and I dimly heard it clattering to the wooden floorboards. I felt something strong and cold wrap around me, something I struggled against but could not budge an inch.
"Understand that this is not Fate. This is my whim, and my whim alone."
Something pierced my skin, but the agony of it melted quickly into euphoria. The fear, however, did not alter, and I could not help but scream as the shadows took me.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Night of the Cheshire Cat

So I had this grand vision of presenting a couple short stories knocking around in my head, a little bit at a time, for my dear Magaly's October Blog Party this year. I had them all plotted out, I figured I'd not have any problems with a few hundred words at a time... I was all excited about it. I would start with The Darkness Eaters... "In order to better shine the Light, we must sometimes consume the Dark," and if that didn't take all the days to finish, I was going to wrap up with a mini story about a vampiress who makes a deal with Death, and get myself primed for NaNoWriMo in the process.


And then Dragon's Dad's health took a turn for the worse, and now we're on watch, for the possibility of needing to take him to the hospital. So I'm afraid to sit down and write, or do anything that takes more than superficial focus, for fear of being dragged away from it by unpleasant circumstances.

However, that just means that I will have to postpone the story writing for later tonight, when the little one and the ill one are not requiring constant alertness. So, instead, for your reading pleasure today, I'm going to cheat just a little and present an old poem of mine (also posted here) that I think will dive right into Magaly's theme with wild abandon and join in the procession like we're following Bacchus into the night...


Mischeif bright and dark
shadows deep and whirling
'tis a fae night, an elder night, so hark
be wary, for the leprechauns are stirring
dancing and singing, bawdy and loud
magic they'll tweak and deviltry they'll summon
'tis the night of the Crescent Moon, my dear
'tis the Night of the Cheshire Cat

Twisting shapes form the foggy night
The grinning moon glows bright
flitting here and there
fly the faeries, ever fair
pinch your ears and pull your hair
they'll tease you down to their fair hell
'tis the night of the Crescent Moon, my dear
'tis the Night of the Cheshire Cat.

Wild woods, wild souls bleed light
wild forest hearts beat in tandem
woodland feet dance in step
satyr's hooves and feline paws
notes of flute and beats of drum
carry the tune and fight the dawn
'tis the night of the Crescent Moon, my dear
'tis the Night of the Cheshire Cat...

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Fly High and Dance with the Storms

I have had a rough couple of days.

Don't get me wrong; I got a lot done that needed doing. I feel accomplished on one hand, but on the other... I am discouraged, dejected, and frustrated. I have had some not-so-old injuries gnaw their ugly, bloody way upward, to chew on the base of my brainstem like some sort of Star Trek parasite...

*ahem* Let me elucidate: These past few days have seen me re-storing my things that have been in storage for... um... three years now, I believe. We'd had them in a not-so-solid structure, and now they are in a much more solid, mice-proof (hopefully), ventilated storage structure. There was mouse poop and mold and mildew EVERYWHERE. My middle daughter's old baby clothes and blankets are ruined. My easel was ruined (insert sobbing sounds here) due to mold. I spent most of today washing clothes and praying my nice things were not ruined (which I believe they are NOT!), and scrubbing mold and mildew off my furniture. (With a homemade cleaner - witch hazel, lemon juice, lemon essential oil, lavender essential oil, tea tree oil, and water. Best stuff in the world.)

The upsides: my clothes survived, so I don't have to live in two pairs of pants anymore. My books are just fine. And the rest of it is pretty safe.

The rough part? Having to face the fact that I've been living out of a suitcase for three years, with no end in sight because of... well. There are many factors. Most of them I... we... have little to no control over. (Ask me why, before you jump to conclusions!) I miss my books. They were... are... my best friends. Always have been. I miss painting. I miss having a space to set up my bead board and metal clay tools. I don't know when I'll have that again. I have cried so many times the past few days that I lost count.

I am grieving because we were never given a chance... to explain, to show what we can do, to live on our own unaided. That's the difference, here; we are striving for that, in spite of what it may look like to those who assume they know everything. We are trying to find ways to live, on our own, to support ourselves and exceed necessity, to not live off of what other people can give us. There is no make-believe world. We know, better than many, how hard the world is right now. We are lucky, so lucky, to have a roof over our heads right now, even if it is... difficult. There are no employment possibilities; the county we live in has limited growth and more people unemployed than there are jobs available. The jobs are gone as soon as we learn of them. Only something crazy and creative and totally outside the box will save us, but that requires help and support, because we have no resources to work with or purchase things that are needed, and no one who is willing and/or able to assist in that department. My Dragon is an inventor, and a crazy brilliant one (think Tesla), but has few tools, and no materials. Can you imagine how frustrated he is?

So I fly a little higher with the dragons, and dance with the storms in defiance and joy. Bare my teeth at the cackles of derision and howl in their ears, make those snide faces run for the hills in fright, where Coyote can taunt them some more. Dig a little deeper, carve and paint the bones, with my fingernails and my own blood if need be. Because that's all I've got left to work with, and I'll be damned if I let those bones go to dust from disuse. Beware the day the flesh and skin grow back over them; it will be the day that many things come unraveled and burn to ashes, and something new and bright emerges. Hope that you may take flight with it, because if you don't, it will leave you behind and never look back.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sparks

strike a spark
against the blade
in the darkness absolute
rasp the stone
across the edge
make it ready
for the battle
strike the sparks
from blade to oil
catch the flame
in your hand
and hold it high

Monday, June 10, 2013

the Storm

the land takes a breath
the sky loses its light
swift now the darkness races 'cross the blue
green turns to gray and all stills in wait
flesh quivers, quails, cries out
terrified and yearning
feels the fire coming
as the land awaits the kiss
of violence that renews
flash of light
of death and life
this that kills and makes stronger
touch it, feel it
hear it roar in wordless voice
caress of cold and wet
as the air begins to drown
feel it, drink it in
draw it down inside
through and around
claim the burning
quell the yearning
sate the thirsting
feel it in your teeth
in hair, in eyes and skin and nails
sink those teeth into it
bite the wind and feel it howl
taste the thunder as it splits your skull
scream in chorus til your throat bleeds
embrace the rain and drink it til you drown
feel the land returning
taste the sky a-birthing
drown, drown, drown in the lightning burning
and waken laughing
with eyes flashing
skin crackling
blood burning
bones aching
and never
ever
fear
again

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Past and Future Secrets

Some of you may or may not have noticed that I deleted several posts from my blog. If you hadn't noticed, don't worry about it; however, this post is still relevant. I've been... purging. Sort of a soul-detox; I went through my Facebook friends list. I deleted those posts. Next up is my Yahoo address book... not looking forward to that one. I might even just start over with a new e-mail. We'll just have to see what happens.

I realized something over the past 24 hours... well, probably closer to 36, at this point. Amongst the delirium of intermittent sleeplessness as I attempt to get the dragonling to actually sleep at night...

-ahem. She has had a bad habit of forcing herself in any way possible to stay up until about 2am or later, no matter what time we get her up in the morning. Like today for example; we got her up around 9-10am, were out of the house all day, and she only napped for about 45 mins amongst this. So about 6-ish this evening, she passed out and so did we (we'd been up all the night before). And she woke up at almost exactly 11pm, an hour and a half ago. She will probably continue to be up all night. This is how it works every time I try to fix her sleep schedule; I end up exhausted and she wins the battle cause I just can't take not getting any sleep! anyways-

Amongst the wacky-sleeping-habit-induced delirium, rainy days, stressing over money and gas and... well, you get the idea... and facing of ugly truths, I have come to a realization, a moment of Coyote-induced satori, if you will. That wicked canine has been at it again in my life and I think I may have finally gotten the message. "Do something crazy and scary, and see what happens!" (See my post on Coyote Medicine for more on that concept.)

You see, my grandmother (my mom's mother, who is a zealously religious old bat, but means well and has interesting insights sometimes in spite of the brain damage from years of bad prescriptions; not being mean, it's just the truth and I love her regardless) looked at me some weeks back and goes, "You're like an airplane on the runway. Your engine's revved, you're all lined up, but you haven't got the go-ahead from the tower. Something's holding you back. You need to figure out what it is."  I looked at her funny, figuring she was making not-so-veiled references to my current relationship status (that side of the family disapproves of most of my life choices... mostly because they make assumptions instead of actually asking me what's going on in my life. Seriously, how can you judge a person and their choices without first getting their perspective??). After a moment - she let me really dig my own assumption deep, the old Crone - she smiled at me and said, "It's not [Dragon] who's holding you back, and it's not yourself. You need to figure out who it is."

I've been pondering this ever since. Because, you see, there are very few people actually involved in mine and Dragon's life, so figuring out who's holding us back has been an interesting process. There are a lot of people trying to tell us what to do and how to do it, but very few actually trying to be part of it, if that distinction makes sense. There have been some people who could come under that description, but while it made sense, it never quite felt accurate, to me. So I thought and thought, and because of something that happened in the past 36 hours, I think I've realized what she meant.

Don't worry, I'm drawing it all together, just keep reading ;)

So as I said, I've deleted several posts. The subject matter was very similar in all the ones I deleted; I was expressing my point of view, my emotions and frustrations, about some of the things visited upon me and my two older daughters over the past three years, without actually making public the inner details of the truth of the situation. Now, thanks to this moment of satori, I am considering making every last gory, horrific detail very public. Because I have realized that the deck is ridiculously stacked against me, and it no longer matters how I feel about something, if the one reading/listening doesn't understand the why of those emotions.

These things connected to my frustrations, my hurts, my anguish and anger and sorrow for my children and my love, all have to do with family and those I thought were close friends, and the truth of the major events of not only the past three years, but the seven before that. It should begin at the beginning, and to reach full understanding you must read through to the end. The last ten years of my life have been a painful journey. I've come to understand that the things that mean everything to me don't mean squat to most of the people I've known. I've come to a place where I'm glad to be free of the misconception that I was worth it to them.

I feel the need to chronicle these ten years. I feel the need to let it all out... as Magaly says, "drag those monsters out from under the bed kicking and screaming into the light of day," but I am terrified that somehow even this will be twisted and turned and used against me to further others' ends... And those ends seem to have been all pointed at keeping me away from my older two daughters.

My theory is this: dragging these monsters out into the light will make them fizzle and dry up and seem much less scary. And perhaps, just perhaps, we might see that the monsters aren't monsters after all. I don't want to send private emails to those involved, because then it's still secrets (and I've tried that; it doesn't seem to work out well for either myself or them). And secrets have been my worst downfall.

The drawback is that I know there's going to be a lot of people (who may or may not actually read my blog) who will not want any of this written out. Some will not want their actions to come to light. Others will not want to know the uncomfortable and unpleasant truths that I know about things and people that they care about.

Understand, this isn't a threat. I'm not being petty or vengeful or any such thing. I am simply tired of secrets, and tired of not being heard. I have not once been asked for my side of the story. I have not volunteered it before now because I was afraid it would get used against me. But...

But maybe it's well past time for secrets to no longer be secret, come what may.

This is your chance to weigh in, just by the way.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Pagan Blog Prompts: An it Harm None...

I wanted to address this one after reading SalemWitchChild's response because it was her blog more than the prompt itself that got my muse worked up.  I found myself agreeing with most of her responses with some small caveats, so that foxy muse in my head yipped and yipped until I agreed to come home here and write my own. In fact, I saw a nifty little infographic on Facebook earlier today detailing similar credos from religions around the world, including Christianity (Do unto others...), Baha'i (hope I spelled that right, sorry if I didn't!), Sikhism... well, you get the idea. If I find it again I'll post it here and you all can look it over.

So I want to thank SalemWitchChild for inspiring my muse. :)

And this is not a response to your response, SalemWitchChild.  If you read this, I want you to know I'm not arguing with you or snarking at you. As I said... you inspired me to hop over to PBP and think over my own thoughts on the subject.

Be warned if you are easily offended by someone standing up for what's good and right and true to their own heart and family, then don't read any further. I think I hit most big trigger subjects. So, read ahead at your own peril. 

The prompt was here: http://paganprompts.blogspot.com/2013/05/prompt-it-harm-none.html

And I quote: "Today's prompt is about the Wiccan Rede. What do you think of the Rede? Do you follow it? There are about a billion ways to interpret that last line, "An it harm none, do as thou wilt". What does this personally mean to you? Does this mean as long as you aren't harming anyone...you're good to go? What constitutes harm? Does it carry over into animal rights? Does it cover even commonplace things like ear piercings or tattoos? YOU are included in the "harm none" clause, so does this mean you should hold yourself to a healthy lifestyle that doesn't harm your body?
What do you all think?"


Image Source: deviantART


 What do you think of the rede?
I think as a base philosophy - note that I don't use the words morality or moral code. This is a personal preference; when it is a belief to live by, "philosophy" just seems to fit better, in my opinion, than "morality." People have been murdered and mutilated in the name of moral codes, some of which were in the disguise of religion. Most philosophers just sit and argue you to death. (An it harm none...) Morality, to me, is something imposed by an external source (like a parent or a religion or a government) while philosophy is something internal, something you choose for yourself. *ahem* Now that I've addressed that distinction, I'll return to the question at hand.  I believe it is an excellent base from which to build your own personal philosophy. You can build the specifics that you want to believe in around this base concept: An it harm none, do as ye will. That leaves all sorts of interpretation open to the individual, as all good philosophies should. (Plato, Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tzu, etc. just for some examples) I personally believe in it wholeheartedly and have built a great deal of my own personal philosophy around it.

Do you follow it?
As it relates to my own personal philosophy, as I stated above, yes I do! In both my spiritual practice and the generalities of my life... though there are very particular interpretations for either circumstance.

How do I interpret it? What constitutes harm?
This is such a loaded question. "Harm none" can apply to anything you want it to, or nothing. Animal rights, tattoos, piercings, self defense, parent-child relationships, health and well-being... some of these should be obvious, but they often aren't. This could possibly be one of the most loaded questions a human being could ever ask another. "What constitutes harm?" I believe intent carries a lot of weight, but some things are still harmful no matter the intent... like spankings. That is a conclusion I've come to through my own journey as a parent, so please understand I'm not looking down my nose at you. I spanked when my kids were younger, and I grew to know better, and I know any parent out there can too :) I still have those moments with the youngest (she is strong-willed and overly creative), but I'm still growing. I try not to discipline; instead, I try to use reason and understanding to work through a conflict, and when these fail I just love my kids. It's not easy. I fail a lot. But I try. Intent vs. actuality... which wins over? Karma decides eventually, I guess...

To start with: Animal Rights. First of all, I do not agree in any way with animal abuse. But to me, there is a clear line between animal abuse and keeping pets or well-cared-for livestock (e.g. free range, grass-fed, etc. Also see the way the Japanese pamper their Kobe beef cows. Those critters live better than most of the humans on this entire planet!). Livestock, when properly cared for, live just as full and rewarding and pampered lives (in the manner that is appropriate to their species) as any pet who receives the same treatment. In this context, I do not believe either animals kept as livestock or pets are being abused. However! In cases such as corporate dairy farms or puppy mills, then yes, it should be considered abuse and is therefore applicable under Harm None.

On the other foot, we've got extremes like PETA who "liberate" pets and then euthanize them in the backs of their vans. Many times these pets were well pampered and cared for, and a deeply integrated part of the family that PETA stole the pet from. So where's the harm there? Did PETA really do the animal a favor and put it out of some kind of perceived misery? Or did PETA cause harm to the animal and family by forcibly separating them and then euthanizing the animal? I know what my opinion is.

Then you've got vegans who say that meat is murder. Well, I've got news for you: plants have feelings too!!! Or do we conveniently forget the fact that science has proven that plants are healthier and more robust when loved? So if meat is murder, so is veganism.

Nevermind the fact that it is physiologically and biologically impossible to get the full range of nutrition our bodies need for optimum health through veganism. I know some of you would dispute that, but it's a scientific fact that no plant has the necessary levels of bioavailable Alpha Lipoic Acid, and that certain animal fats actually make it possible for our bodies to properly utilize the nutrition we get from eating plants. We are part of Nature too; technically we are predators at the top of the food chain! We are physiologically geared to be omnivores, because we only absorb the full range of proper nutrition necessary for optimum from both plant and animal sources. I'd cite references but I don't have any handy right now, so I'm just going to tell you to go do your research (carefully!) and get back to me. This comes under Harm None too... veganism harms your Self by keeping you undernourished. Veganism can also harm Nature - in many cases it's only through human predatory intervention that certain animals do not overpopulate and starve themselves to death. See: White-tailed deer populations in Eastern North America.

The idea is, don't abuse. There are many forms of abuse. In any of these forms, abuse is harm. Whether it's animals, people, or plants... don't abuse, but don't go off the deep end either. Find a healthy medium. Find a balance.

*ahem* Again, slight tangent there, sorry. So: harm none! Tattoos, piercings... I fully agree with SalemWitchChild's opinion: if done by consent, then no, it's not harm. Infant piercings get my goat something fierce. I have to restrain myself from throttling a parent every time I see a child sitting in the piercing chair at a Claire's. Especially if it's a baby and I hear them start to scream. Watching certain tribal cultural traditions on TV also bugs the ever-living you-know-what out of me. Grrrrrr....

Self defense: I believe in the right to keep and bear arms, first of all.  I believe that if someone's going to try to attack me or my kids, for whatever reason... theft, rape, murder, etc... I should be able to blow their head off before they hurt me or my kids. Now understand something: I am 5'3" and less than 115lb. My metabolism is ridiculously hyperactive and I have to eat a lot just to keep exhaustion at bay, so I will probably never gain much weight. I am freaking scrawny and would rather not trust my continued health and well being to my ability to defend myself in hand to hand combat against a larger, stronger and possibly knife- or gun-wielding opponent. Even less so do I want to trust the health and lives of my children to the outside possibility that I might be able to wrest a knife or gun away from a big guy intent on causing harm, or run away faster than said firearm can propel a deadly projectile (standard .45 caliber ACP 1911A1 muzzle velocity - the speed at which the bullet leaves the barrel - varies from 830 Feet Per Second up to 1020 Feet Per Second. I don't think I can run that fast. Can you?). And even less than that do I want to trust in the hope that a policeman might be close enough to defend me and my children.

So in this case, I have to choose which harm I would rather live with - causing the death of an attacker bent on hurting me or my children, or my kids and/or me being hurt or killed. Which would you choose? I think I'd take the karmic hit and empty a clip into the guy rather than live with myself if my kids got hurt, or what they'd have to live with if I was taken from them. There is no Harm None applicable here; in this instance, however, causing harm to my attacker is the lesser harm.

Parent-child relationships (or any relationship for that matter): can be stated simply, I think. The Non-Aggression Principle(NAP) in its simplest form states that no person shall initiate force or violence against another person or the legitimately owned property of another person. It is discussed in greater length here on Wikipedia, but the base principle, like the Rede, is an excellent one to add to or found a personal philosophy upon. In fact, in many ways, the NAP is the Rede. The NAP, however, does not preclude self defense. It does include both physical and mental/emotional violence (emotional abusers). And in truth, it could be interpreted to mean do not initiate force or violence against yourself, as well.

Health and Well Being: this is a huge trigger subject for me. Hell's bells, you've probably guessed that most of these previous issues are trigger subjects of one degree or another. Bah, my dad would be proud of me... most of my obsession with researching and ranting about the issues important to me, I get from him. Anyway! Health and Well Being... honestly, there's really only one way to look at this. Harm None! This includes yourself. What you eat can be harmful or healthful. Your lifestyle counts. This also means emotional health!  And please understand, I am far from perfect on any of these counts. My diet is less than exemplary but we haven't got the money to eat organic... we barely can make it to the grocery store and back every month. And I have certain vices... like I enjoy Mountain Dew far more than I should. But within my ability, I do the best I can.

Doctors take an oath to do no harm, yet so many people... more than for any other reason... die from doctor mistakes (in any context - vaccinations, experimentation, surgical mistakes, prescribing the wrong meds, etc.) than from any other cause nationwide. I think it may be worldwide, but don't quote me. Yes, that means that doctors cause more American deaths per year than the recent armed conflicts have managed.

Vaccines are poison, period. No, it's not inflammatory language, it's the literal truth. Vaccines literally poison the body. Most of the ingredients are ones you would never ingest because they're what? Poison. I'm sorry if you take offense, but that's your choice to respond that way and you're only harming yourself. Now, you must understand, I had my first daughter vaccinated because at the time, I didn't know any better! Now I do know better, and I try to share that knowledge. Luckily, she had no adverse reactions. There's no conclusive scientific evidence that they are effective. The whole "derd immunity" argument is a joke. Besides which, have you ever read any of the ingredients in those things? Mercury (Straight out poison. Hazmat is supposed to be called for mercury spills that are smaller amounts than what our little babies get injected with at birth. Yes, it's still being used; the FDA lies to you), formaldehyde (embalming fluid... you know, the stuff that makes your relatives' bodies smell funny at funerals, or have you never noticed? Embalm your insides before you're even a year old!), aluminum (linked to a whole host of health issues including autism and Alzheimer's). And have you seen what Gardasil does to young girls?

So thousands of doctors every year violate their own oaths by vaccinating, by participating in dangerous medical experiments, by screwing up surgeries, by prescribing deadly drugs that cause a veritable cocktail of health problems that could be cured through nutrition, herbal medicine, and various and sundry other methods of alternative healing. Harm none.

And don't get me started on dentists...

*ahem* I truly am sorry if any of this caused inflammatory reactions in anyone who reads it... please understand I am very passionate about these subjects and I do research them to the best of my ability. This is not intended to step on any toes, but I will not back down and play nice over something this important. If you can prove me wrong on any particular point, I will welcome thoughtful debate... but don't come breathing fire at me. Your comments will be summarily deleted before reaching the light of publication.

 In conclusion... the Wiccan Rede, "An it harm none, do as ye will" should be fairly simple to interpret. Take it to heart. Eat it up, chew it thoughtfully, and swallow it into your being. Start thinking about what "harm none" really means... and then teach others to do the same. It doesn't have to be religious or even spiritual. It's a philosophy, not morality, or religion, or culture. It actually transcends those, just like the Non-Aggression Principle. It's just a better way to treat ourselves and each other than many others in the world right now, and it's simple to understand. In most cases, it's preserving both our inner emotional and personal physical balance, and aiding Nature to preserve the balance of Her health. The idea of "harm" may change across the world as one goes from moral code to religious belief to cultural behavior, but there are some things that should be considered Harm, no matter which of these three (all or none) you subscribe to.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Interlude of Obsession

So as you might guess from the title, I have been obsessing a bit. What over? Well... my Dragon and I are trying to put together a world for some RPG sessions based on the Palladium Heroes Unlimited system... For those of you familiar with it, you'll know that it's geared toward Marvel and DC comics-esque roleplaying.

The setting: far-flung future, dead Earth, star empires, with dystopian post-apocalyptic cyberpunk influences. Think William Gibson's Sprawl trilogy meets Andre Norton's Forerunner/Uncharted Stars & Zero Stone universe meets Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos meets the old b-grade sci-fi movie Ice Pirates. With a dash of the new show Defiance added to Firefly scattered all across the top to make it shiny. Yes, I know, that's a lot of influences... but I have so many! Andre Norton and William Gibson only scratch the surface... but Andre Norton's science fiction are perhaps one of the greatest defining sci-fi influences in my creative life.

The trouble I run into is coming up with characters for settings like these without stepping on toes of what's already been done. Because, if you follow these genres at all, you'll know that while they do have certain themes they stick with, there is also a great number of satellite archetypes they utilize, and often. I am currently attempting to come up with a main character and backstory... and I have about 4 different directions she could go in. Part of my trouble is that my Dragon dearest has not yet told me what he's thinking up, so I don't have anything to bounce off of.

We try to write together, he and I. I think if we could get our act together, we could write many epic stories with concepts and plot bunnies that have never yet hit the shelves. So here's keeping my fingers crossed that we can find the time amongst getting our lives... and the Studio... up and running, to write something amazing. Because I know we've got it in us. We both have a passion for good fantasy/sci-fi... though we don't necessarily have the same ideas of what constitutes "good," however we can agree on enough to make it plausible. Heh. We have similar writing styles and phraseology, etc. Most of the time we can come up with compelling imagery and characters... though that is often more his forte' than mine. My strong suit is wording and phrasing. At least, I think it is. He has a dark, twisted sense of humor and takes a sadistic delight in messing with people. He also has a way of coming at something from a wholly unexpected direction that deepens and broadens a tale. I know, because I've gamed with him (Dungeons & Dragons 3.5) and his breadth of vision is awe-inspiring. And if he ever reads this, I will never live it down, ha! ;) I, on the other hand, love grand, sweeping epic tales - you know, the sort that puts Lord of the Rings to shame. We have had several things in the works (on top of the multitudes that are mine alone), which are still sitting on my hard drive and I dearly hope one day we''ll return to. Because they were awesome, if I do say so myself. In fact, Starsoul, that I've been posting excerpts from, is one of the things that has been somewhat of a collaboration.... though my Dragon has been more sounding board and occasional assistant concept designer than actual co-writer.

The only real big problem is, if anything of ours ever got published, I'd have to come up with a pen name. Because trust me, my legal name would look terrible on a book cover.

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Spark Despite

 (found this image on Facebook through Weird Tales Magazine... no clue as to original source)

There is a cold hallway of concrete and steel. There are four men walking down this hallway, each with a clipboard or a notepad in their hands. They wear white coats with nametags on the breast, and bear an undeserved sense of entitlement upon their shoulders. One, the tallest one, wears eyeglasses. They pause at one of the many doors in this hallway. It is a bare steel door, with a small reinforced plexiglass window set into it.
And this, gentlemen, is the reason you are here today. If you will please take a moment to look through this window, observe its contents, and then I will explain what you see.
They each comply, one after the other. They see a white, padded room, and a rather small woman in a straight jacket huddled against the far wall. Her hair is lank and matted, and she is weeping almost violently. Other details are apparent, such as the other objects in the room, but each man quickly moves away from the window before his mind begins to notice these too closely. They are… unpleasant.
The tall one in eyeglasses nods to each of them. Now, you will have noticed some peculiar details. Let us address each one. The first, no doubt, is that she is…
The woman begins screaming, and throws herself at the door, bashing her head against the plexiglass window until she bleeds. Her voice is infused with grief and rage, and somewhere deep in her eyes the men notice… something. This something makes them even more uncomfortable, and so they look away. Her screaming is muted enough by the room’s insulation that the glasses man can continue his dissertation without needing to raise his voice.
Ahem. You will have noticed that this woman’s state is such that she should probably not be alive. Her ribcage is burst open as if from the inside, and her heart rests upon the floor in the far left corner. The protruding bones are cracked and splintered, and you can see clearly inside her empty chest cavity. Her guts have been ripped out and are strewn about the room. And finally, the still-rotting remains of her arms. You will have noticed the dried blood mixed in with the tangles in her hair, and the amount of blood on her straight jacket. And yet somehow she still lives. You will have noticed the grief and rage in her screams, and the intense weeping, when she is still. You will also have noticed the odd spark in her eyes beneath the… negative… emotions.
This is a fascinating case, gentlemen. You are looking at a woman who has had everything she cared about taken from her by those she thought she could trust.
Her ribcage was torn open, her heart thrown to the floor, when her family betrayed her. Her guts were ripped out when her children were taken from her through trickery and under false pretenses. Her arms slowly rotted away over the years she spent helpless and ineffectual to remedy the situation, or to keep her promise to her daughters, to fix their lives. She has been abandoned here by family who were all too eager to see her become someone else’s problem, and never gets any visitors. They are only too happy to forget she exists.
By all the science we understand, this woman should have died from any single one of her wounds.
And yet there is still that spark in her eyes. It is a spark, gentlemen, of hope. She still hopes that somehow, against all odds, something may yet turn out right for her, in the end. In spite of her horrific injuries and circumstances, in spite of the cold, hard facts in front of her, there is still the human animal’s reaction to hopeless circumstances: the irrational urge to hope in spite of those facts.
It is too bad, really. But it will provide us with material for scientific study for years yet to come.
The four men in their pristine white coats nod in eager agreement and chuckle mirthlessly, congratulating each other; the woman’s existence has disrupted their neat little worlds but each one of them will probably go home tonight, have a beer or a glass of whiskey, and fall asleep with a clear conscience. They each shake hands with the tall glasses man and the four of them turn around and walk back down the hallway, as the woman’s furious, grieving screams fade into silence with each step they take.
She is no longer their concern. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Celebrate the Roses... but also the Thorns.

Dedicated to: the very human monsters among us, and the Mothers that fight and strive to overcome them.

I include myself in that category by the by; I have some all-too-human monsters I battle with for the sake of my children as well. I know what it feels like. I contend with it every year. I have fought and fought for what I believed was best for my children and gone toe to toe with family and friends... and most of the time I was overruled by the man I chose to be their father. He was a mistake, but my children weren't, and I didn't know any better at the time. And now they are far away from me because I don't have the resources (read: money) to fight for them. All I have left is my words, and so far even they have failed me.

I was not planning on my first May Monster Madness, and truth be told I didn't actually get on the list, but it's a worthwhile theme to write on anyway...  What's that, you ask? Well, Magaly has been chattering on and off about Annie Wall's May Monster Madness blog hop since "...to the Bone" that I enjoyed so much, so it rather inspired me. Now, I'd planned to take Starsoul excerpt #2 and beef it up a bit and re-post it, but there's an article that takes precedence, and since it is Mother's Day, after all... well. I posted some of this on my Facebook a little while ago, but felt it needed re-addressing here. I apologize in advance if this rains on your Mother's Day parade, but we need to remember that being a Mother isn't all roses... there's a lot of thorns to contend with as well. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

So. The article: Mother Forced to Pay Spousal Support to Man who Raped Daughter - followed by my commentary:

On this Mother's Day, let's not forget the more somber side of being a Mother, for that too is to be celebrated. The tears, the anguish, the fears. We cry for our children when we can't protect them. We cry when they are stolen from us through trickery and false pretenses. We hurt when they hurt, and we are not always allowed to show it. We hurt because they are so small and tender and dear, and then they grow up and all we're left with is memories. We fear for their past; did we do our jobs right? Did we teach them what they need to grow into a happy healthy individual? We fear for their present; what are they doing right now? How are they feeling? Are we doing everything we can or should be doing for them? Are they happy and fulfilled? We fear for their future; will they be happy? Will they have a good life? Have we given them the tools they need to face life with lifted chin and an eager smile? And more importantly, have we taught them what they need to face adversity with strength and perseverance, and come out on the other side better and stronger for it?

Celebrate, Mothers. Celebrate the hard, agonizing side of being what we are, just as much you celebrate the joys. And celebrate each other - laugh with each other, cry with each other - for you are each sacred and divine for the gift of life you bestow, not just in the carrying and the birthing but also in the raising of that tiny, tender, sweet life that is never the same moment to moment, whose time to call yours is so short.

But also do not forget that this world does not love you, so you must find those who will. From the single mother who has no family and must work three jobs to support her kids, to the mother who has everything and everyone to support her that she could ever ask for... all we have is each other, and our love for our children. ♥  

Maybe this is a rather harsh wake-up call, but we need to remember that being a mother isn't all roses. It's about hard decisions, about tears and working oneself to the bone. It's about enduring shit like what's in this article, that the world forces on us. And we are damn amazing, strong, beautiful creatures for the simple fact that we CAN endure it. Because sometimes that's all we can do. But we do it for the children that we love, so it's always worth it in the end.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Mother's Day, in Abeyance

So I've been having a rough week.

Everything seems to set me off into tears. I've been irritable. If I were anyone else you could say I'm PMS'ing... only I don't normally succumb to the hormonal grumpies that many women do. I finally realized what's really got me down.

It's that time again... Mother's Day.

How can I celebrate Mother's Day fully, when I haven't gotten to spend it with two of my children in as many years? It's grand, being here for my Dragon and the dragonette. Though our surroundings are not so grand, and our future outlook is in grave jeapordy, and every day my goal... the one life dream I have actually clung to... seems farther and farther away, I am still mother to that dragonette and partner to the most lovely man I have ever known.  My dragonette, my one and a half year old Moira, is a pistol and then some... She is too smart for her britches. She is sweet and clever and learns faster than I would have thought possible, and both of her big sisters are spooky-smart. Her father has an IQ that's over 30 points north of genius, and she seems smarter than he is. If I were not her mother, I am sure I would have gone mad by now. Between the two of them, my Dragon and dragonette, they keep me sane, and keep me hoping.

But I can never forget that there are two missing, two treasures that have been stolen away through trickery and under false pretenses.

Caroline. My ten... almost eleven... year old, my firstborn. She was born under less than auspicious circumstances but that does not lessen any of the brightness and wonder that is my Caraboo. For six years, she was my only reason to take joy in my life. She was my smile. She was the pearl in my crown. She is smart, gentle, sweet, and caring to a fault. She loves Tae Kwon Do, drawing, reading, and Minecraft (not necessarily in that order). She is a beanpole, like I was at that age. (I am not a beanpole now, for the single virtue of not being tall enough to be considered such, though I am still a scrawny girl). Caroline Brianna. I promised you at Christmas two years ago that one day I would fix things, that it might take time and she'd have to be patient and have faith, but one day things would be the way she dreamed. It's two years later and I am at once closer and further away from fulfilling that promise, but it will happen. Gods grant it may be before another two years has passed.

Isabella. My Bellaboo. My angel. You were two years old when you were taken from me. You cried, heartbroken. It was the only time you've ever cried to see me leave. That was one moment in a short, harsh series of moments that broke me apart and tore me down until I didn't know who I was anymore, and I am still figuring out how to put the pieces back together again. Two years later, my almost four and a half year old angel, and I haven't been allowed to spend enough time with you to know you. I know your favorite colors are purple and pink. I know you like to dance (But then which of my daughters doesn't?), and I know you are sweet, sly, and clever. I know you are a sensitive child. I know you get frustrated by the fact that your little toddler legs are so much shorter than your big sister's. I know you are beginning to lose the knowledge of who your mommy is, and why you should care that I'm not around...

And for both of you together: I know you miss your baby sister. I know you're being neglected. I know you're wondering what happened to me. I know we don't get to talk as often as any of us would like. I know you deserve better than you could ever get where you are, and I know I can give you that. I love you both. You are two pieces of my world that will only be complete and whole again when you are with me, and I have time to make up for the wrongs done us.

And for all three of my beautiful daughters, simply this: I love you. Know that I am always here for you. Know that I will always protect you to the best of my ability. Know that you are always in my thoughts, always in my heart, and always in my prayers.

In closing, I cannot wait for the day when Mother's Day can be an abundantly joyful time for me, instead of the bittersweet pleasure most of my days now are. I am so tired of the unpleasantness salting the dry earth. I am ready for the rains to come and wash it away. I am ready for the dying-ground to once again be the growing-ground, for fertile, fecund earth to bring forth new life.

Now if only the rest of my life would get its shit together and catch up....

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mistaken

under dark veil of night
we weep for those are lost
in the silence after the fight
it's all over; the war is won

let's not pray for those are passed
they are beyond our ken
we must hope for the ones who last
and merely fade away

what can be done has been done
we've achieved all we could
even though the war is won
there's nothing for it now

the fight continues, fierce and strong
it's never over 'til you're dead
we are convinced they're wrong
won't know 'til it's too late

they were right, we were evil
though did not know it then
so from the grave we speak their will
step forth, carry their voices

that this may never again take place
we whisper their names and cry their tears
weave their words like threads of lace
never again, never this way.


This is something I wrote in 2006 and posted over at Livejournal, and I felt it was pertinent again today.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Starsoul: the Artificer Enigma (Excerpt #2)

-->Author's note: This novel-in-progress has been my first-ever attempt at adding elements of horror to my writing.  Technically, Starsoul's genre would be fantasy/magepunk(which is Steampunk with elements of wizardry)/horror. I think. As it is my first attempt, I'm still feeling my way through the phraseology and terminology and... well, you get the idea. 
I still am not sold on the form the creature takes at the end. Thoughts?
Enjoy:

Hate seethed. Power boiled. Rage spewed forth, and something rose in the depths of the stone beneath the fortress. Dust fell. Mortar crumbled. The island shook, and one shard of black glass toppled from the highest tower. The Tan Shen soldiers emerged one by one from their tents and watched as the fortress slowly toppled, one crackling bit of obsidian at a time. The trembling ground caused the tents to collapse from broken poles and loosened ties. The commanders bellowed but no one listened; every man was filled with a sense of dread that grew into horror, yet they were rooted to the spot by some power they could only dimly sense. Their Artificers wailed and fled, touched by the power but not imprisoned by it because of their own strange ability.
It took hours of this for the final splinter of glass to shatter. By that time the artificers were long gone, to carry the tale of the fortress’s collapse to distant villages, and eventually to the Tan Shen Emperor.  Through them, the entire land would hear of this day’s events within a matter of days, and panic would ensue, causing horrors of its own making without the creature having to lift a figurative finger.
The earth rumbled. The island swelled and burst open like a boil, and that terrible something emerged from the rubble, a thing that would have caused the soldiers to run, to faint, and perhaps to kill themselves in an attempt to escape, had the creature’s power not held them all, rooted to the spot.  It had been millennia since the creature had walked free, and it was hungry.
The men and women in the camps were forced to watch the thing cross the river and bear down upon them, to hear their fellows’ screams and be splattered with their blood and worse. The creature fed from their terror and pain as much as from their flesh. More than that, it reveled in being free, in the delicious sensation of their fear and pain filling its spirit even as their bodies filled its belly.
When its frenzy was over and it lay replete upon the blood-soaked dirt, it lifted an appendage and pointed a sensory organ in the direction that its old enemy had gone. It could sense that man. It could sense the woman who had freed him, the one it must feed from to remain free. And it could sense the power in the land, the power that had joined with the ancient man, that ancient irritant, to imprison it. It knew the woman somehow, knew the touch of her being; it was a memory long in its past and well faded, but somehow, it knew, in the same way it knew the man. Only it had never actually touched her being or tasted of her essence. Of him, it had.  And would again.
But the three of them were tied together and always would be, and it must taste her, it must eat her…
The currents of power ran strangely in this land, differently from what it had once known, and it would not be easy to find its quarry in this world. It did not see as those native to this world did, in lines and shapes and colors; it saw the flow of power in everything – the rocks and plants, the animals and insects, and even the people.  The presence of so many different powers in this land – the man, the woman, the magics of the Shaal-enii, the Enclave, and the invaders – would make the hunt an interesting one, at least.
The rage and hate bubbled up again, and the creature changed.
A woman stood there in place of the creature, smiling to herself.
The creature’s smile widened into a vile grin, and the hunt began. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Fecund

The word "fecund" seems almost like a dirty word, right up there with "menstruate" or "procreate" or half a dozen others I can't think of right now. It's a deep, earthy word that means "producing or capable of producing an abundance of offspring or new growth; fertile." It is synonymous with the words fertile, prolific, fruitful, productive, and rich. In other words, it's "go forth and multiply." It's a potent and abiding, sexual, lusty word.

Say it. Fecund. Say it out loud to yourself. "Fecund." How does it make you feel?

It reminds us that though at its basest level, sex is merely a necessity for the continuation of life, it is also beautiful, enjoyable, and ultimately an intimate, base, earthy, dirty act in the best ways imaginable. Sex is fecund. It's the earth, conjuring up images of fruit-laden orchards and fields lying open and waiting, eager and lusting for loving hands to plant seeds, or loving hands to harvest the bounty of the earth's green and growing things. It's images of sun-kissed waters and the caress of dusk as it brings out the fireflies to make love in the trees and grass, adorning the verdant leaves with shining copulation throughout all the long, heated summer days. It's a dream, and reality, all rolled into one delicious word. It makes it all beautiful, with two dirty little syllables. Fecund. Say it again, taste the syllables, feel them roll around hot and heavy in your mouth and mind. If you're not feeling vaguely uncomfortable... or excited... you're doing it wrong.

It means that newness flows forth.

It's something that's necessary and unavoidable, but can also be sacred and beautiful, or vile and disgusting, to be reviled and ignored and silenced when possible. It should be celebrated. It's all in your perspective.

Is fecundity sacred or profane? Or is it both? I love this word. It's descriptive. It evokes thought and perhaps even motion. It evokes imagery and emotion. What do you feel when hearing or thinking the word? (Go on... say it again. You know you want to. Whisper it. Fecund.) What images come to mind when you speak it aloud? Are they glorious or frightening? Or perhaps... both? What might that mean?

Fecundity is a fertile field, a ripe fruit, or a woman pregnant with a child conceived in love. And no matter the context, it is beautiful. Place that ripe fruit in a trash can, and it's still ripe and juicy and sweet, and you can still imagine its flavor bursting over your taste buds like a river overflowing her banks. The fertile field is surrounded by industry, and maybe polluted, but it is still rich with potential.

Maybe the pregnant woman is unwed, or underage, but she loves her child and she loves the man who helped her conceive, and that too is beautiful.

Fecund. Fertile. Fruitful. Create. Bring forth. Flow outward. Sensuality. Sensation. Sexuality. Love one another. The inner life waits for expression, the producing of the image of that life. The seed, the soil, the water, the sun, the sprout, the maturing plant, the flower, the fruit... and yes, even the dying.

For every growing-ground is also a dying-ground.

Even the creative life must die, but it dies only to be reborn, renewed, and ready to be plowed and planted all over again.

Fecund. 

Blessed Beltane, my loves.